Bush administration finalizes stronger provider 'conscience' rule

Amidst considerable controversy, the Bush administration has gone ahead and finalized a rule that gives health workers greater latitude to participate in care they find morally objectionable, including abortions. On the other hand, it appears that the rule may meet a hasty death when incoming president Barack Obama takes office.

The new regulations require healthcare employers to certify in writing that they're complying with several federal laws protecting the conscience rights of healthcare workers. These include a new section that was added to the Public Health Service Act in 1996 prohibiting government organizations from discriminating against healthcare providers that refused to perform abortions and related activities.

What gives the new rules a kick is that they also threaten providers with loss of government funding, plus legal action to recoup government dollars already paid out to them, if they violate these provisions.

That being said, president-elect Obama has publicly criticized these rules, and it seems likely he'll see to it that they go away when he's in office, political observers say.

To learn more about the future of the new regulation:
- read this Wall Street Journal Health Blog item

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